A Work Commenced September 7 2022.
If you’ve been following my blog reviews, you’ll be aware of my great affection for the Nikon E II 8 x 30. From the moment I put it to my eyes, I was stunned by the magnificent views it served up: a wonderful, tack sharp, ultra-wide view, rich in contrast and detail, and all with an enchanting 3-dimensionality. That experience got me curious about other small Nikon Porros and I became intensely interested in the now discontinued E series, especially after reading Roger Vine’s glowing report on the Nikon E 8 x 30 linked to in the preamble above. I decided to bite the bullet and purchased a used Nikon E 10 x 35 from a seller based in Tokyo, Japan.
The seller stated that the instrument was in good condition, with no fungus and a small amount of dust that had made its way inside the instrument. Checking the serial number, I was relieved to see that it was one of the later, multi-coated models, which were manufactured between 1988 and 1998, after which time Nikon introduced their latest, greatest small Porros – the venerable E IIs and SEs. Judging by the numbering – 611675 – I guessed that it was made in the mid -1990s.
It took just a week for it to travel from the Far East to my home here in rural central Scotland, and I was very excited about the prospects of holding the instrument in my hands. The binocular was exceptionally well packed, taking what I felt was an eternity to remove all the bubble wrap before I could finally hold it! Straight from the get-go I was extremely impressed with the instrument, coming only with a neck strap of extremely high quality. The instrument looked very lightly used, with no significant scuff marks on the body. I could instantly tell that this instrument was made during an era where craftmanship was at a much higher level than it is today; the beautiful contouring of the solid metal chassis, overlaid by an immaculately applied retro leatherette armouring. As Mr Vine states, you simply don’t get instruments made to these standards today!
Weighing just 624g without its strap, the instrument feels great in the hands. Like the newer E II models, the eyepieces are fitted with soft rubber and offers decent eye relief for eyeglass wearers. Texture-wise they felt just as firm as the E II, which came as a relief to me, as I had heard that this type of rubber hardens with age. The focus wheel is slightly less refined than on the E II though, feeling significantly stiffer to turn. The opposite was true when I examined the dioptre adjustment mechanism, located under the right ocular. It was significantly easier to move then the E II dioptre ring, but still stiff enough to remain in place firmly during field use.
The objective lenses looked immaculate, with the characteristic green coatings. Ditto for the ocular lenses.
I was relieved to see that the instrument arrived in excellent collimation. The exit pupils were nice and round, with very little extraneous light around them. Performing my Iphone torch test showed no significant internal reflections, diffused light or diffraction spikes, all characteristic of a well-executed Porro prism design. But I hit a snag when I examined the interior of the binocular from the objective end. Yes, there was a small amount of dust visible on the prisms, a very thin veneer of haze, but also significant fungal growth on the prisms of both barrels – something I was assured was not present by the Tokyo seller.
Fortunately, the fungal growth and dust didn’t significantly compromise the view. How was it? Well, I can agree with Mr. Vine about its sheer superiority to the classic Zeiss 8 x 30s. Compared with my late 1980s multicoated Zeiss Jenoptem 8 x 30, the Nikon view was indeed much better. 10x in a very well corrected 6.6 degree field offers a unique perspective; at least from my own experiences. Brightness, contrast, glare suppression and sharpness were all very good in this modern classic. And just like my smaller E II, the view is supremely comfortable, with no problems with eye placement and zero issues with blackouts. I disagree with Mr Vine’s claim of 90 per cent transmission though. Maybe at yellow-green wavelengths, but surely not over the entire visible spectrum.
I also disagree with Mr. Vine regarding the ultimate quality of the view; comparing the images of the Nikon E II 8 x 30 to the E 10 x 35, I judged the former superior in terms of contrast and glare suppression. I also compared it to my excellent Opticron Imagic TGA WP 10 x 50, which served up a noticeably brighter and maybe even a tad sharper image, with much better glare suppression and noticeably more vibrant colour renditions. I know this was not a totally fair comparison, as there is a world of difference between a 10 x 50 and a 10 x 35. In bright sunny conditions, the views were quite comparable, but under overcast skies, the 10 x 50 pulled far ahead of it.
This came somewhat as a shock to me, but in retrospect, modern anti-reflection coatings are just superior to older ones, and there’s no getting around that. The world has moved on. Mr. Vine also stated that to get images in the same league as the E series, you’d have to move to the Swarovski Habicht, Nikon E II or SE series. My comparisons of the Nikon E 10 x 35 with the Opticron Imagic TGA WP proved otherwise.
A Great Night Under the Stars
In the wee small hours of the morning of September 6, I enjoyed sumptuous views of the Hyades in Taurus and right above it, fiery red Mars and the Pleiades. 10x has been my personal favourite magnification for stargazing of late. It just goes that little bit deeper than a 8x equivalent. I was very impressed by the Nikon E 10 x 35’s wide field of view, with pinpoint stars across most of the field. Near the field stops, you can readily make out some field curvature, which can be focused out to some degree. Moving higher into the sky, the Nikon E served up excellent views of the early autumn Milky Way through Cygnus, Cassiopeia and Perseus. Views of the Double Cluster were also highly captivating, following the curving chain of stars northwards to commune with the lovely starry patch, Stock 2. Later in the season, this will make a nice lightweight binocular to study the winter constellations of Gemini and Orion, both of which are rich in astronomical booty.
Notes form the Field
I enjoyed one more day with the Nikon E 10 x 35, taking it up to one of my local patches – Culcreuch Pond – where I enjoyed some great views of Mute Swan cygnets learning how to fly. It’s all about mimicry. The adult directs the cygnets to one end of the pond, then takes to flight, keeping low above the water. The cygnets began flapping their wings frantically but as yet, they’ve not mastered the power of the air. I was also lucky enough to watch a magnificent Red Kite circling over the newly cut hay in a nearby field, the 10x glass showing some nice details quite invisible to a 8x equivalent. Close focus was measured to be 3.7 yards – plenty close enough for the vast majority of birding activities. It was during such a time that I thought about what I’d do about this very good modern classic, and I decided on getting it professionally serviced by skilled experts. I wanted to have the fungus removed from the prisms and the optics thoroughly cleansed so that it would enjoy a new lease of life. So I phoned Tony Kay, technical director of OPTREP, based in Selsey on the south English coast( the home of the late Sir Patrick Moore no less), explaining what work needed done to the instrument and whether he was willing to refurbish it for me. To my relief, he accepted. So I fetched my leatherette pouch that came with my Nikon E II 8 x 30, which proved to be a snug fit for the larger 10 x 35 glass, packing it away in a small box with plenty of bubble wrap. The next day, September 7, it was winging its way to his workshop.
Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to seeing what Tony can do to revitalise the Nikon E 10 x 35. Hopefully, I’ll get it back soon, when I’ll provide an update to this blog.
Update: On Saturday September 24, the instrument arrived back safely from its journey to the English south coast. I’m happy to report that the Nikon E 10 x 35 was thoroughly cleaned internally, with no sign of fungus, haze or dust inside the barrels. Collimation was perfect also. All in all, a very happy camper and excited to begin new adventures with this great classic Porro prism binocular from Japan.
I prepared another ‘sarcophagus’ for this instrument to keep it bone dry and free of internal moisture; just in the same way I store my Nikon E II 8 x 30.
I’ll have more to say about both these instruments in the coming weeks and months, so watch this space.
Thanks for reading!